day 22: cakes

Today is 22 days, which is three weeks and one day of the omer: hesed she’b’netzach.

First, go read the guest post for today by my former classmate Joey Glick. It moved me to tears. (And then come back.)

Three-time Cy Young Award winner, six-time All-Star, four-time Golden Glove Award winner, three-time AL wins leader, two-time AL ERA leader, and three-time WS Champion? Eh.

Secret Jewish history? SOLD.

Basically Orioles pitcher Jim Palmer was going to be the pick for today no matter the sefirot or other options, but I’ll be the first to admit he’s a bit of an odd choice. The omer connection is a little tenuous, which is why it’s good there’s a guest post today!

As The Washington Post reported in 2018, Palmer was adopted at two days old and grew up with the wild assumption that he was actually part of the modern-day legend of Camelot, since his New York birth certificate referred to him as “Baby Boy Kennedy.” As it turned out, that surname — the most ubiquitous in Irish New York in the mid-20th century — actually belonged to the husband of his birth mother’s sister. It seems likely that she used it to conceal her own identity: Her pregnancy was the result of a relationship with a married man, a fellow Irish immigrant.

good looks to be sure, just not the Kennedys’; photo: AP

None of this would be known for another seven decades until Palmer’s third wife (and the second woman called Susan that he married) solved the mystery of his birth parents. Palmer himself, it seems, was never interested in the real story of his biological roots.

And the Jewish piece? Palmer was adopted by the Wiesen family, whose wealth came from the city’s Jewish-dominated garment industry. Palmer’s father died when he was nine years old, and when his mother remarried and changed her name, Palmer did too, when his stepfather, actor Max Palmer, adopted him a few years later. (By the way, this Max Palmer should not be confused with another actor of the same name active in Hollywood at that time. At 7 feet, 7 inches, that Max Palmer was described in 2014 as the second tallest professional wrestler in history.)

Another part of the Jewish connection relates to the fact that the Brooklyn Dodgers moved across the country from New York to California just a few years after Jim, his mother, and his adoptive sister did the same. The young Palmer grew up idolizing L.A. Dodgers pitcher . . . wait for it . . . Sandy Koufax! By the way, did you know that Koufax didn’t pitch one Yom Kippur when the Dodgers were in the World Series in 1965?!? The next year, the defending WS Champions (yes, the Dodgers won the WS in 1965, proving definitively that you should always go to shul, kids, because then good things will follow) got swept by the O’s in four games, and Game 2 featured a match-up between Palmer and his idol: Palmer threw nine shutout innings for the win, becoming the youngest pitcher in WS history to do so. (The Dodgers didn’t help themselves that game by committing six errors.)

Oh, yeah, Palmer’s nickname: He ate pancakes on the days he pitched. That’s it.

Palmer’s Hall of Fame plaque describes him as the “high-kicking, smooth-showing symbol of Baltimore’s six championship teams of the 1960s . . . who combined strength, intelligence, competitiveness[,] and consistency.” Perhaps other sefirot would therefore be more appropriate, but I still do see a connection to hesed. Palmer’s story reminds me of what one of my meditation teachers always says when encouraging his students to cultivate loving kindness for ourselves. “In order to have gotten you here to your cushion today, many people must have performed countless acts of love and compassion to ensure your development from infant to adult.” The many people who counted Palmer as family clearly did so for him.

This is the first day of the week of netzach, victory, endurance, or eternity. We’ll be exploring the different ways that this quality manifests itself over the next six days, but for today, I just have two words: Jockey. Ads. You can’t ever unsee those. (My almost-pick for today has himself some recent un-unseeable photos.)

So let’s count day 22 in honor of the wild stories — inherited and manufactured — about the greatest hurler in Orioles history.

featured image: Palmer pitches against the New York Mets during Game 3 of the 1969 World Series at Shea Stadium. Getty Images



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